ORION — Just past the midway point of the Three Rivers West Division girls’ basketball season, first place in the conference was up for grabs Wednesday evening.
Riverdale was looking to lengthen its slender lead in the league standings. Orion was looking to overtake the Rams and leapfrog past them into the TRAC West lead.
In a matchup dictated by defense and rebounding, Riverdale turned an 8-0 run to close the first half into the deciding factor. Up by eight at halftime, the Rams made that lead stand up as they posted a 39-32 victory.
“We always try to play defense, and I thought we did a good job of it tonight,” said Riverdale coach Jay Hatch, whose 15-6 club is now 5-1 in the TRAC West, giving it a one-game lead in the win column on Sherrard. “Everybody who played for us did a good job. When you hold a good team to 32 points, you’ve got to be happy with that.”
Instrumental in the Rams’ defensive effort was being able to keep Orion’s senior standout Danielle Taets from enjoying a huge offensive night. Foul trouble limited Taets to just four first-half shots as the Chargers (12-10, 4-3) fell behind 19-11 at intermission.
“We did a good job of slowing her down and holding her below her average,” said Hatch. “That was a team effort as well, but I thought Lauren Lodico and Molly Sharp especially did a good job” on Taets.
While the duo of Shae Hanrahan (14 rebounds) and Ashley Garber (seven boards) anchored Riverdale on the glass, Lodico also stepped up on the offensive end in the second half by scoring nine of her team-high 11 points.
“We were focusing on waiting for our shots, and not just throwing up anything,” Lodico said. “It’s always harder to play away, and we miss that home atmosphere, but we were really ready for this game.”
Early in the third quarter, Riverdale stretched its lead to nine points, but the Chargers found a spark as Taets started to come alive offensively. Consecutive Taets baskets and a putback bucket by Karsyn McCunn (11 rebounds) had the hosts within three at 22-19, but a 3-pointer by the Rams’ Abigail Weaver (9 points) helped them take a 26-19 lead into the final period.
Still, a Taets three-point play with 5:15 remaining closed the gap to 30-26, but Riverdale answered with five straight points and gradually was able to take control despite struggling at the free-throw line. The Rams hit just 8-of-27 foul shots, including a 5-of-19 in the fourth.
“Credit where credit’s due, Riverdale is a good team, close to being a top 10 team in the state,” said Orion coach Tony Stiles, whose club was trying to bounce back after suffering a 53-37 conference loss to Rockridge on Monday.